There aren’t many dedicated gaming controllers purely for iOS devices, and in that regard RiotPWR has carved out a niche in the market.
The RiotPWR ESL gaming controller is designed to work exclusively with iPhones and iPads, connecting directly to their Lightning port. It means you don’t have to worry about changing batteries or charging. But it does mean you need to be tethered via a short cable at all times.
If you’re pairing the controller with an iPhone, that’s no problem. Just pop your phone in the included mount and everything sits tidily together. But it’s a little more awkward with an iPad, naturally too big and heady to be mounted.
It’s a nice enough controller, modelled on an official Xbox pad. Everything down to the contour of its shoulder buttons and triggers feels familiar. That means it’s comfortable to hold. And, with a pleasant colour scheme of white, yellow and green, it’s nice to look at too.
RiotPWR ESL Controller Review: Features
The RiotPWR ESL controller has some handy features. There’s a passthrough Lightning port, handy if you want to charge something else (like an Apple Pencil?) while you’re playing. There’s a bespoke ‘share’ button too, allowing you to easily capture screenshots and share them while playing. And, as you’d expect, there’s a 3.5mm jack in case you want to play using headphones.
What’s particularly nifty is that the iPhone holder is removable in case you don’t want to play with it mounted (or, indeed, you’re pairing the controller with an iPad). Simply pull it out and replace the rubber cover; it’s like it was never there. But since the holder itself sits on the controller rather than at the top, it means your device will obscure part of the controller when you’re playing. Probably not a big deal as we should all know where the buttons are by now, but it may take some getting used to.
The weight distribution is also a little different: RiotPWR market this as “ZeroG”, apparently providing an “optimum mobile gaming experience”. Tilt your mobile as far forward as the holder lets you and admittedly, the weight is distributed evenly, making it more comfortable than most mobile controllers of this configuration. But tilt it back even slightly – to a more natural playing angle – and you’ll feel the weight pull back, making the controller feel rather top-heavy. It’s hardly a fair complaint, though; the weight of your handset is always going to be a factor when playing mounted.
Its build quality is sturdy enough, but the RiotPWR ESL does feel a little plasticky. Its shoulder buttons in particular are very clicky, and the thumbsticks just don’t feel quite as pleasant to use. And because there’s no battery inside, it’s also very light when used without the mount.
Should you buy a RiotPWR ESL controller?
The unique selling point of the RiotPWR ESL controller is, indeed, its Lightning connection. The box uses buzz phrases like “Clean Connect for interference-free gameplay” and “Latency Free gaming”. And, sure, being connected via a wired connection does indeed make for a quicker, more reliable connection. But the lag involved in a standard Bluetooth is so low that the vast majority of users are not going to notice.
It’s there where the RiotPWR ESL controller falls down. It retails for $69.99. That’s more expensive than an official Xbox controller, and substantially more expensive than many other third-party Bluetooth controllers. Not having to worry about charging or changing batteries is convenient, but needing to be connected to your device via a wire isn’t ideal. Especially if you’re playing on iPad.
If you’re serious about gaming on iPhone, then perhaps the RiotPWR controller is worth your consideration. After all, that miniscule benefit of “Latency Free gaming” that it promotes may actually be worth it. And, having a built-in holder is certainly beneficial. But sticking with a standard Xbox controller is cheaper, more practical for iPad users and, ultimately, offers a better build quality.